There are many hot takes constantly spewed about this 2022 USC football team. Some have them as high as No. 3 in the country, many in Vegas apparently have them winning the National Championship, and some idiot fans of other teams have them going 5-7. None of the above are likely correct, and neither is ESPN's SP+ projection of the Trojans' 2022 win total:
Seven wins. That's all ESPN's SP+ gives USC. Embarrassing. A team with Lincoln Riley as the head coach, a team with Caleb Williams as the starting QB, a team with Jordan Addison and Mario Williams as the No. 1 and No. 2 Wide Receivers, a team with Travis Dye as the starting RB, and a team with four returning starters from the No. 1-rated offensive line in the country (PFF) is not going 7-5.
Yes, this team went 4-8 last year, but anyone who has been following college football knows that this is a COMPLETELY different squad. This is a team that hired a top five coach in America, who brought in five four-star transfers and two five-star transfers right away through the portal. Expecting USC to finish with the same amount of wins as Washington and Arizona State is just flat-out laughable.
USC football likely has this low of a projected win total due to the roster turnover.
Due to USC football having such a different-looking roster is likely the reason they are projected to only win seven games. Of course, it should be the other way around, but SP+ projections are based off of advanced analytics and the projections that come from them.
It's hard to project USC's season using advanced analytics due to so many of the players on the team not having been with the program in the past. Therefore, the analytics see many unknowns with this team. The analytics don't understand that, for instance, Caleb already has played for Riley before and is continuing in his development the same way he would if the two were still at Oklahoma.
They don't fully understand that Addison and Mario already have a connection with Caleb. They don't see USC's upside because a lot of USC's best players weren't with USC last year, and therefore they don't have the evidence of how these players will play with SC to base their predictions off of. It's similar to how advanced analytics rarely favor younger teams that aren't returning a lot.
USC will not be winning seven games this season. There is a world where they only win eight, but there is no world where they only win seven. They'll be ranked by the time the 12 games are up, and even have the upside to win the conference. They'll likely be somewhere in the middle of those two possibilities, and not below them with just a 7-5 record.